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tv   [untitled]    August 15, 2012 3:30pm-4:00pm PDT

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>> good afternoon, i'm lisa van krekin and chair of the board of directors for the legal aid society here in san francisco. and i'm so pleased that you are all here to be a part of today's celebration, and i also thank you all for sustaining this fantastic institution and for making the critical work that we do possible. today, as you heard, we're recognizing and celebrating the 96th consecutive year of the legal aid society, providing free legal services for poor people. so first, please join me and raise your glass to toast the legal aid society. i have an empty glass but you all should have a little wine in your glasses. it's a good excuse to have some wine this afternoon. and help me toast to the 6 years of putting justice -- 96
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years of putting justice to work. so to the legal aid society. thank you. during this past year, the society's attorneys, staff and volunteers have served literally thousands of clients and families throughout the bay area and their achievements have been numerous and really quite inspiring, as i'm sure most of you know. >> i'd like to share one achievement in particular in a title ix lawsuit filed on behalf of four low income high school girls denied equal treatment and benefits in their high school's athletic program, particularly the girl's softball team. you may not know the legal aid society is focusing on title ix work which is really exciting. after a 10-day trial in federal district court, the judge down in southern california held that the high school had violated title ix and found that the inequalities demonstrated at the trial should have been rectified
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years before by the school and that promoting compliance with title ix is important societal value. he emphasized which is this wonderful quote that equality and justice are not luxuries, they are essential elements woven into the very fiber of this country and codified in title ix. title ix just celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, and its impact has been astounding. but progress at the high school level and below the high school level still remains painfully slow and i personally am so proud that this organization has taken the lead in standing up for high school girls and enforcing compliance with title ix at high schools in california. along with all of the other amazing work that the organization does, it's something which deserves great praise and great appreciation. i don't feel like -- [applause] [applause]
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>> i would also like to extend my appreciation to first and foremost, our incredibly talented and dedicated staff at the legal aid society who work long hours with passion and with commitment to meet the urgent needs of the clients and the communities that we serve. i'd also like to thank the 200 volunteer attorneys, law students and interpreters who manage the help lines and staff, the five workers rights clinics that the legal aid society runs, the many law firms, including all of you who provide us with a wide range of pro bono advice and counsel, our many donors, businesses and members of legal communities, foundations and individuals. and the attorneys who designate the legal aid society as recipients of the fund and finally our committed colleagues on the board of directors who help steer the society with their leadership. finally, i'd like to express special thanks to the 17 firms who are recognized on the
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screen and also in the program book who continue to participate in the time-honored addition of per attorney giving to the annual fund. that tradition and commitment is especially meaningful in these economic times when people have been cutting back a little bit on donations. thank you very, very much for joining us. and now please welcome my fellow board member, the tireless and hard-working esteemed chair of the luncheon committee, the very honorable james l. warren. [applause] >> i'm the guy that sends you all those emails saying thank you. and i mean it. i am jim warren, the chair of the committee, and it's my pleasure to welcome all of you here with everybody else. we have more than 900 people in
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this room, law firms, corporations, public interest groups, judges, we have over 28 judges. i understand we have virtually every court, the superior court, the court of appeals the supreme court, the district court, the ninth circuit, but justice roberts had another conflict and couldn't make it. but i'd like to echo what lisa just said about the people who have committed so much money to making this organization functional. and i'd like to honor specifically certain of our donors who have contributed way above and beyond the call of duty. i'd like to honor odett and partners. [applause] >> lef cabraser. [applause] >> latham and watkins.
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[applause] >> scad and arps. [applause] >> cooley. [applause] >> morrison and forester. pillsbury. and simpson thatcher. [applause] everybody here has contributed and these have made a special contribution which we want to honor separately. i also want to thank tracy jennison of kirkland and ellis for doing whatever she needed to do to get the fine wine donated by duckhorn wine company and shea lure. you should have bottled of that on your table right now. we're also grateful to mark richardson and merrill corporation who contributed the printing of our luncheon program and menu, and i want to
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personally thank our friends at the recorder and "the daily journal" for their pro bono support in leading us up to today. i also want to thank the committee that worked on this and the honorary committee, all those people contributed to is. and now the only reason you really want to hear about from me is that i'm the guy that gets to give away presents. for the first time this year, we have compliments of our former chair, ken gurnsey, a silicon valley jawbone jam box. i don't know what it is. but i've been told by people who do that it's really wonderful. so what i'm going to do is draw -- hopefully you can put your name in here. i'm going to draw a name with the person whose name i draw simply stand up and raise your
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runners come out and present you with your present. here it is. wow, it's heavy. it's got a picture of a boom box on it and the cover says "that was then." this is now." and this is now goes to danielle johnston from nixon peabody. where is danielle johnson? [applause] and second, as we have for several years, thanks as usual to doug clark from wilson, saw, and seeney. i have an ipad. but i won't have it for long.
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because it's going to go to travis manfreddy of severi and severi. where is he? there you go. [applause] >> and now it's my pleasure to introduce what i always consider one of the high points of this program, our director of litigation, denise hewlitt will talk briefly about some of the things the legal aid employment law center does, and if these stories don't move you , bless you. >> good afternoon. as we gather to celebrate our 96th anniversary and recognize the generosity of the many people who contribute to our mission, the entire staff of the legal aid society wishes to acknowledge you for your financial contributions, for your pro bono assistance, for
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volunteering in our law clinics and for providing organizational leadership. we recognize those contributions not as simple gestures of charity but as acts of justice. because in the eloquent words of nelson mandela, overcoming poverty is an act of justice. it is the protection of a fundamental human right. the right to dignity and a decent life. poverty, he said, is man made, and it can be overcome by the acts of human beings. now, the low-wage workers, they come to us in circumstances that are among the most precarious, and yet the most fixable of all poverty related conditions. what they require is a decent wage, health care, disability accommodations, and relief from discrimination and financial exploitation.
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some of our clients are particularly vulnerable to poverty because they don't fit precisely in the categories of people the law protects. so, for example, when a woman is fired from her job, not because of gnder or race but because she's a victim of stalking and domestic violence and then is subsequently denied her unemployment benefits, we ensure that those benefits are restored and her income is protected. still, other victims of poverty fall into that vulnerability because of a health crisis such as the woman who was fired literally one day before she underwent mastectomy surgery, losing both her income and her health benefits on the same day. both have now been restored. every large law reform or
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class-action case we take on comes with more quieter, more smaller but no less significant victories. that means that our clients will have access to basic necessities for years to come. so, for example, when we celebrate the resolution of a large class-action against home depot on behalf of deaf workers, we celebrate this gold standard agreement that we reach because it will enable those workers across the state to continue to work safely and to be accorded the same opportunities as their nondeaf workers. for another example, another law reform case, we celebrate our enormous victory in enjoying california from denying the benefits of long-term care insurance, relying on the unconstitutional defense of marriage act.
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[applause] >> to deny the benefits of long-term insurance to same-sex spouses and register domestic partners, depriving them of long-term care at a moment in their lives when they are the most vulnerable to the effects of poverty. among the clients we assisted this year are nail salon workers who were not only denied minimum wage over time but were on top of all that assessed $20 every time they spoke vietnamese to each other. they are restaurant workers fired for speaking spanish in the witch. they are caregivers who were paid what amounted to less than $3 an hour for 17 hour-long days. they are house painters who contracted lead poisoning and took it home to their toddlers
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and they are undocumented workers who are reported to immigration authorities simply for inquiring about minimum wage, or on the other hand, paid cents on the dollar simply because their employers know they fear deportation. in our work we see evidence every single day that poverty caused by ememployment crisis is indeed fixable by acts of justice. we are deeply grateful to our board of directors, to our volunteers, to all our contributors and to all of you here today for your acts of justice and for making our acts of justice possible. now i have the distinct honor of introducing an old friend and current mayor, and i have promised joan i won't tell any stories from the old days, but this mayor has a firsthand deep
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understanding of both the injustice and the fixability of poverty. please give a warm welcome to our friend and our mayor ed lee. [applause] >> thank you, denise. again, congratulations to you and joan, to your wonderful staff and the legal aid society and employment law center for celebrating the 96th anniversary. it's my pleasure to be here today to join all of you. and as i was looking at the theme today, putting justice to work, my immediate thought is that i have a very complementry theme i've been trying to do as your mayor and that's putting people to work. and i hope that that is very much the same. because we cannot be the greatest city in the world or the most innovative city in the
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world unless all of our communities share in the richness of this city, and that's been my theme and i know putting justice to work in the workplace is a great part of that. i want to again thank the legal aid society and the employment law center for doing all the great work that you do do. thank you for having me here today. it's an honor to present the matthew tobriener award for public service to belva davis. this award was named in honor of our legendary california supreme court justice matthew o'tobreaner and serves to annually recognize individuals who have strived to ensure that justice for those who are most vulnerable among us is had. the late justice matthew
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tobreaner was revered as a legal scholar and humanitarian who did not hesitate to speak out on behalf of the disadvantaged and marginalized individuals. in fact, he expressed some time ago the very fundamental principle, whatever hardship poverty may cause in society generally, the judicial process must make itself available to the indigent. it must free itself of the sanctions born of financial inability. and it is that principle that is the foundation of this award. and so a memory of justice -- and i want to give a shout out to michael and the tobreaner for working so well since 2000 on collaborating on the meaning of this award. it has been an award that pays
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tributes to individuals who have made extraordinary efforts to assist the most vulnerable members of our community and to strengthen the principle of equal access to justice. so today it's my honor to represent a bay area woman who exemplifies her distinguished career in the bay area for over 45 years. as the first african-american woman television reporter in the west bella davis truly embodies these principles. rising from poverty in the projects of oakland to one of the most respected news journalists of our time, she is a true inspiration to all of our communities. during her career she covered many of the most explosive stories of our era such as the berkeley student protest, the birth of the black panthers, the assassinations of mayor
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mosconi and harvey. among many other stories. bella activates community awareness through her poignant reports and demonstrates her involvement by being a board member of community organizations, a labor activist and a supporter of diverse cultures and certainly of the african-american culture. through her hard work and dedication, she helped establish the san francisco's museum of acan dispra and numerous other civic projects in our area. bella davis has challenged and successfully overcome both race and gender-based discrimination in the journalism profession with courage and fortitude. she's brought untold stories of african-americans and women out into the mainstream news, giving them the attention and respect they deserve.
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you are an outstanding citizen that has changed the face of television news and shed light on many of the most significant stories of our era. you have inspired all of us for decades with your grace. your dignity, your strength and your purpose. and with that, i would like to present to you this well-deserved award, the matthew o. tobreaner award for 20126789 please come on up. for 2012. please come on up. [applause]
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>> and of course, i will take this wonderful opportunity to add something from the city that i get to do and that is, of course, to proclaim this to be belva davis day in san francisco. [applause] >> well, thank you so much, mayor ed lee, for those kind remarks, and most of all, thank you for taking the time to be here. i know there are many, many other bells that are ringing for your presence, so my much appreciation to you. and to this room of distinguished attendees, to the
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leaders and staff of this life-changing organization, the employment law center of the legal aid society, and to all who followed the arc of history as it bends towards justice. thank you for this honor. i have been blessed with a long life of surprises and miracles. and one of them, or all of them, have been fueled by hope and the promise of america. and a america that promises liberty and justice for all. why else would a female black child, born during the really great depression of the 1930's in the deep south envision and dream a life so far from her reality? it is that promise of liberty and justice that continues to fuel impossible dreams around the world today, and it is this
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promise that's kept so many of you working long past the hours for which you are being compensated for. because you are willing to sacrifice for those of us whose dreams depend upon your skills. my family migrated to california because of my uncle ezra. a man with no formal education, but one brave enough to file a lawsuit during the frightening days of the depression. he filed a lawsuit against his employer, a major manufacturer after he was injured on the job. it took years for me to understand his bravery. i'm here because a young white lawyer filed that suit on his behalf. and a mysterious louisiana judge ruled in his favor. all seemingly impossible things
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for the era. but one day a check for $2,000 did arrive. and i went with my uncle and aunt to berkeley to pay for their house on ashby avenue. i saw the check. it was a miracle that he did not pay the price of being tarred and feathered as promised by the white men of monroe, louisiana. it was uncle ezra that led my immediate family on their exodus from the south. so no matter how hard i am willing to work to get into broadcasting, i was willing, it could not have happened without help. and in this case, again, someone we didn't know, the president of our country, lyndon johnson's courage to sign and authorize the civil
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rights act of 1964 easing the color line in hiring, permitted me to be brave enough to go out and to apply for a job doing work i'd seen no one else do. no matter how often i recited my mann take -- my mantra, to not be afraid of the space between my dreams and reality, promising myself that if i dreamed it, i could make it happen. i could make it come true. but without the courage of those who had marched defiantly, rode buses, sat in at lunch counters and took the beatings and cruelty that went with seeking justice in those times, my dreams would not have been possible. it is a promise of america that keeps me and millions around the world dreaming, hoping, working, and pledging to not be afraid of the unknown.
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that space between our dreams and our reality. because we're counting on those of you stellar scholars, powerful leaders, to continue to love liberty and the promise of america and fight for justice to help us realize our dreams. i'm so honored to receive this award named for such a distinguished chief justice of our state. i am more than flattered to even have been thought of to stand here today. for a woman who comes from my background, as i told you, a woman who did not go to college , but did not let it deter her from dreaming big dreams. i just want to affirm for you whatever the sacrifices you with talent have that can help those most in need of help, i thank you for

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